Forty years ago, another of the Army’s best and brightest — like Petraeus a former commander of the “Screaming Eagles” — returned from a war with a top U.S. diplomat to do a public relations blitz.
Gen. William Westmoreland appeared with Ellsworth Bunker, the American ambassador to South Vietnam, before key congressional committees and on “Meet the Press.” The general delivered an address to the National Press Club in which he spoke of the war in terms that ring familiar today.
“We have found it to be like no other war we have fought before,” Westmoreland said of the U.S. forces’ struggle in Vietnam. “There are no moving front lines, just a changing picture of small actions scattered over the whole country.”
Even so, Westmoreland was optimistic, noting that the people of the country “have, in the past year, held free elections.” He said his troops had “learned to work alongside the Vietnamese army while encouraging the development of a representative government.”
After his speech, Westmoreland was asked a question that has come up in the congressional debate over Iraq: “Shouldn’t the running of the war be left exclusively to the military?”
“I think it was Clemenceau who said that war is too important to be left exclusively to the generals,” Westmoreland said, referring to Georges Clemenceau, the French prime minister during World War I. “I think, at this time in history, in view of the complexity of this confrontation, that Clemenceau was right.”